Amelia Freidline, Fresh Take
Amelia Freidline, Fresh Take

I love to cook, and in the past five years I’ve accumulated quite a collection of cookbooks.

I’m not really a big meat-eater anymore, though, so my cookbooks tend to fall into one of two categories: baked goods or produce.

Recently I was given one that encompasses both, depending on your definition of “produce.”

“Cooking With Flowers,” by Miche Bacher of Greenport, N.Y.-based Mali B Sweets, includes recipes for exotic-sounding dishes such as hollyhock clafouti, but also more down-to-earth fare like potato salad with violet vinaigrette.

While these brightly-colored recipes on the whole seem relatively simple to make, I can understand that not everyone would perk up at the idea of foraging for backyard blooms or springing for certified-organic petals.

The cookbook does contain some fun-looking ideas for using flowers in food — I’ve always wondered what I could do with the clamshells of edible flowers I see hanging next to the fresh herbs at my grocery store.

It also reminded me of something neat Retail Editor Pamela Riemenschneider told me about at The Packer’s August Midwest Expo in Chicago.

Salinas, Calif.-based Rocket Farms Herbs Inc. introduced a retail kit to make herb-infused lemonade, tea or other beverages. The kit includes fresh dill, mint and rosemary and also edible flowers.

If any Kansas City-area retailers start carrying the kit, I might have to host a flower-themed dinner party and try out the violet potato salad.

Another recent addition to my collection was “Mr. Wilkinson’s Vegetables,” by Melbourne, Australia-based British chef Matt Wilkinson.

The cookbook features 24 vegetables (one of which is horseradish), with a brief introduction to each that explains the vegetable’s history, varieties, health benefits and uses and provides tips for how to grow your own.

It’s a vegetable-centric cookbook, but not a vegetarian one, giving omnivores and carnivores alike new ideas on how they can make produce half their plate.

Wilkinson explains his food philosophy in the cookbook’s introduction:

“Today a lot of people think about what protein they feel like eating — will it be beef or chicken, fish or pork? Then what starch will be added to bulk out the meal and, as a final touch, throw in a few vegetables,” he said.

While the book contains easy-sounding recipes for dishes such as parsnip chips it also has foodie-centric items like“green garlic champ with poached egg and broiled ox tongue.”

Fairly everyday vegetables might be the stars in this book, but unusual ingredients might scare off some less adventurous home cooks.

Still, Wilkinson’s love for “veg,” as he calls it, shines through in the recipes and beautiful photographs.

“Vegetables are so much more diverse in flavor, types and availability than any old piece of meat,” Wilkinson says in the introduction.

I can agree with that.

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